It has been a rough two weeks for Ohio (4-4, 4-4 Mid-American Conference).
Having their matches against Bowling Green and Toledo canceled due to COVID-19 put a damper on their season and the quest to win a MAC Championship. Tonight’s 3-2 (27-25, 25-21, 13-25, 26-28, 11-15) loss to Ball State (6-5, 6-5 MAC) was no different.
Ohio was leading the charge for the first two sets of the match. Totaling 35 kills through the second set compared to Ball State’s 23. The Bobcats seemed to be on the trail to taking the match 3-0 after coming out speeding in the first two sets, but the gas ran out in the third set.
While the wheels fell off for Ohio, Ball State was chirping away in the Convo and attempting to create as much noise as it could to distract the Bobcats. Players and fans alike were yelling and screaming to create an energetic environment for the Cardinals’ to begin their steady climb up from the 2-0 deficit.
Ball State would go on to take set three 25-13. However, winning this stage was not enough for the Cards. They wanted the checkered flag and spot in victory lane.
Ohio kept up with the Cardinals’ comeback during the fourth set statwise. Both teams walked away with 20 kills and two errors, but a controversial last-minute challenge gave Ball State the edge they needed to win 28-26.
With the match resting at 2-2, the Bobcats had one last chance to shut the Cardinals down.
The Convo was shaking from the energy the Cardinals gave off going into the fifth set. Ohio was able to strike first, but Ball State soon shot up to a 4-2 lead. Unable to get into gear, the Bobcats found themselves trailing 12-7 in a set where only 15 points were needed to win. They weren’t able to rally, and Ball State took a victory lap in the Convo.
“I give credit to Ball State,” coach Deane Webb said. “They were outstanding on offense tonight… to have 155 swings [and] only have five unforced errors is tremendous.”
Ohio hit .257 with 171 swings and 70 kills, but Ball State’s .348 hitting percentage and 67 kills was too much to keep up with.
“We have to do a better job of getting our feet to the ball,“ Webb said. “Knowing when we have a chance to take a great swing and when we don’t.”
While as a team the Bobcats were struggling with hitting, junior Lauren Park had herself a career night behind the wheel. She earned 28 kills, both a career and season high. Her total tonight helped her earn her 100th kill this season, but Park wasn’t ready to celebrate yet.
“Personal success aside… I’m more determined to come back stronger as a team tomorrow because that’s always my goal, is to win games,” Park said. “As happy as I am and proud of myself as I am for how I played today.”
The Bobcats will have pick themselves up quickly. Their second match against Ball State is tomorrow and if they want to stay above .500, they need to regroup.